Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Child Care Works (and lets parents work!)

In Pennsylvania today, and across the country, we are constantly talking about the increasing numbers of unemployed workers. Workers are encouraged to take any job they can find, and often want to do so simply to bring in a paycheck. However, taking “any job” can come at a cost, especially to children.

Unless workers can earn enough money to pay for childcare (and in Pennsylvania, the costs range from $800-$1600 per month to care for an infant and a preschooler), they must rely on a patchwork of friends and family, or unlicensed child care providers. If friends are called away or families have their own emergencies, the workers who rely on them might lose their pay, or even their jobs. When workers accept “any job,” they run the risk of not being able to afford keeping their children safe, even though they need to work to pay for food, heating, and housing.

Pennsylvania offers a great program to help parents find and keep employment by subsidizing their childcare. The Child Care Works program subsidizes families earning up to 200% of the Federal Poverty Level, or a little over $42,000 per year for a family of four. However, the waiting list for this program is now at 15,000, and parents who sign up for the program can expect to wait up to 18 months before receiving the subsidy. Until state funding increases for the program, parents must continue waiting –and worrying that when they do find a job, a lack of child care will prevent them from taking it.

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